David Scott prepares for BRAC fight in June

By Justin Boron

The battle to remove local military bases from a Department of Defense list recommending their closure will not be won by a single knock out punch. Instead, victory will come through diligent persuasion over the next month, a local U.S. congressman said.

"We've got to win every quarter. We've got score every inning," said 13th District U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta. "It's not like a boxing match."

With four Georgia bases including Clayton County's Fort Gillem on the Base Realignment and Closure list, Scott said there aren't any drop dead issues that alone would convince a nine-member board coming to Georgia on June 30 to hear appeals on why Fort Gillem and Fort McPherson should stay open.

The two administratively adjoined bases in northeast Clayton County and south Fulton County are up against 60 other bases that were recommended for closure and realignment.

The closures are part of an effort to trim excess military operations nationwide. Four prior BRAC lists closed 97 bases during from 1988 to 1995.

The saving linchpin for Fort Gillem, Scott said, will have to be the momentum built by tenacious arguments for the base.

Scott said a June 8 meeting at Fort McPherson with an undisclosed BRAC commissioner will be important to build that momentum.

BRAC officials could not confirm that Commissioner James T. Hill, a former U.S. Army general, would be visiting the base.

But at breakfast Thursday with the county Chamber of Commerce, Fred Bryant, deputy director of the Georgia Military Affairs Council, said Hill is a likely possibility.

Scott said he wants to highlight Fort Gillem's importance in being militarily prepared at a time of war, its use as a recruiting tool, its geographic location, and its unique facilities that can't be moved to another base.

Fort Gillem's geographic location is ideal, Scott said, because it so close to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. He also said its proximity to affordable housing and a big city is inviting for recruitment.

Even with the congressional delegation pumping up its efforts, the odds of success aren't good, Bryant said, giving Fort Gillem about a 10 percent chance for survival.

Crucial facilities on base, like the its $42 million forensic crime lab, probably won't do much to make a case because they can still operate as a military institution without the entire base still being open, he said.

Scott said the congressional delegation is optimistic that BRAC commissioners will see a detriment in closing a major base during wartime.

"It would be foolish. It would be ill-advised . . . if we close Fort Gillem," he said.

Fort McPherson is home to three major headquarters, the U.S. Army Forces Command, 3rd U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserve Command. Fort Gillem is a satellite of Fort McPherson and it houses the headquarters for the U.S. Army Recruiting Brigade and 1st U.S. Army.

News Daily staff writer Ed Brock contributed to this article.